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|| News Item: Posted 1999-02-04

Travel Tips: Never Check Your Camera Gear as Baggage
By Captain Ron

The single most important rule of the road was "Never ever check your camera gear as baggage." For those of you who require a refresher course as to the reasons why not? Let me count the ways.

1) LOST BAGS, yeah, yeah I can hear it now "I've been traveling for years and never suffered a loss" True, statistically the airlines manage to misplace only about 1 piece of luggage per 140, BUT what if yours is the one? "Hey it's ok, my gear was old, I'll use the money from the airline insurance to buy new stuff" HA! Better stop and read the fine print on your ticket jacket. It specifically excludes camera equipment and limits the carrier liability to $1250.00 per bag. The last time I checked 400mm f2.8's were going for around 9K.

2) BAGGAGE PILFERAGE, a lot more common than the airlines would like you to know. (Same insurance weasel deal as above)

3) DELAYED BAGGAGE, In the world of shrinking travel budgets where you fly in the day of the game, to save on the hotel bill, you could be severely screwed.

4) DROPPED BAGGAGE, (AKA, impact damage) You get to the game, open up your
Halliburton case, stare at your 600mm f4 that has broken in to a couple of pieces, then Bob Deutsch walks up to you and says "hey now you've got 2 - 300mm f2.8's!" (Yes this actually happened, but I will not reveal the photographer's name because he'll pound me into the ground.)

Have I scared you yet? Are you still checking some of your gear as luggage...?

Well sometimes you just can't avoid it, especially with the stepped up enforcement of carry on baggage regulations.

Let me give you a few pointers on how to increase the survivability of your checked gear.

- NEVER use Halliburton cases. Nothing screams "steal me" louder than one of these babies. If you already own one, you can easily camouflage it by putting it inside a duffel bag. Oversized duffels (XXXL made by Eagle Creek) can accommodate a couple of Halliburton's, thereby cutting down on your piece count, saving you big bucks on excess baggage charges.

- Bubble wrap is your friend, with it; you can convert just about any piece of luggage into an equipment case. The trick is to know what type of bubble wrap to use. Huh? Different types of bubble wrap? Well actually it's different sizes of bubbles in the sheet. As a general rule, you use big bubble wrap (2 inch diameter bubbles) for big telephotos, and small bubble wrap (.5 inch diameter bubbles) for camera bodies and short glass.

- When you wrap a piece of gear up DO NOT use tape to secure the material. Tape will tear the wrap when you unpack, making it tough to reuse the wrap when you repack. Instead use rubber bands to close the wrap.

- You can buy bubble wrap at any Post office or Mailboxes etc. but be warned you're going to pay a premium price. It's better to buy the stuff from a Packaging supply house (listed in the Yellow Pages)

- If you just need a few pieces, UPS has these really terrific overnight pouches that are made of bubble pack. You just slit 'em down both sides and voila, you've got a sheet of bubble wrap. (Best of all, it's free) or you can just drop a lens or body into the pouch, fold it over, and secure with a rubber band.

- NEVER ship your camera bodies with lenses attached! Any side impact will torque the mount and you'll have pictures that are sharp on one side but soft on the other.

- NEVER EVER ship your lens in the trunk style case it came in! Manufacturer supplied cases are designed to provide protection for the glass while it's being hand carried to assignments, or bouncing around, in the trunk of your car.

- If you must ship the lens in it's hard case, first put it into another box with some packing material, like wadded up newspapers or foam peanuts. (Bubble wrap makes less of a mess.) Make sure there is at least 3 inches of padding around the case on s reduce
the amount of "transmitted shock" to the lens when it's dropped. (Or dragged across the airport tarmac.)

Now if you're in the market for the best combination of protection, packing speed, and versatility, take a hint from me Captain Ron, and my evil twin brother Bert Hanashiro, LIGHTWARE cases RULE.We use the Medium format case 1629 for the foundation for our shipping system. (It's the biggest MF case in the line.) What makes these cases work so well is a semi rigid "tub style" shell that dissipates impact energy.

Long glass goes into Long lens bags. Z300 for 300mm f2.8's and shorter, Z400 for 400mm f2.8's (you can squeeze a 500mm f4 in) Z600 handles 600mm f4's. Roll a layer of big bubble wrap around the skinny part of the lens to give it support and remove the lens hood and stick it over the bubble wrap skinny end. (No more busted hoods!)

Camera bodies get rolled in small bubble wrap or if want the casa deluxe treatment, go for the LIGHTWARE "Z" Pockets. They attach directly to the long lens bags and have sufficient padding to even protect the plastic body Canon's

You can get (2) long lens bags into the MF1629 with enough space left for a couple of monopods, several bodies, and a zoom lens. (No, there's not enough room for your film, but you shouldn't be checking film anyhow, because of the new CTX scanners.)

To discourage casual pilferage, I lock the zippers with a small combination lock (Brookstone (3) for $20.00) then you never have to worry about losing a key.

(Capt. Ron travels throughout the U.S. in search packed powder conditions to ski and a quiet stream to fly fish.)

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